What is a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney

Nobody wants to think of themselves being incapacitated or unable to make medical decisions on their own behalf. However, there comes a time in most everyone’s life where they reach a point where they can not make decisions for themselves. This might either be because a person no longer has the mental capacity to do so, or they have been in a crisis or emergency that renders them unable. Regardless, it is a good idea to have someone trustworthy have a healthcare durable power of attorney to help make those decisions.

What is Power of Attorney

A durable healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone that you designate to make healthcare decisions for you. The difference between a living will and a power of attorney, is that a living will is a directive expressing your wishes concerning life sustaining procedures. A power of attorney gives someone else control over making decisions regarding your healthcare.

How to Select Someone

Giving someone the power to make life or death decisions about your healthcare is not something to be done lightly. It is important to carefully select a person who you trust, usually a close friend or family member.

  • Decide on the person you’d like to appoint power of attorney to and talk with that person. The person you choose should be someone who respects your rights, even if they don’t agree with what you want, and will be willing to do what you wish should the need arise.
  • Appoint a second person. In case the first person you select is unavailable or refuses to make the necessary decisions, a second person should be available to make decisions for you. Consider if you’ve chosen your spouse to be your power of attorney, but you are both in a car accident together and both seriously injured. Having a third party, in this case, your second power of attorney available to make decisions would be imperative.
  • Be sure that the people you choose, as well as you, understand the power that is being granted. This person you choose will be able to make life or death decisions for you, including keeping you in a vegetative state or deciding no life saving measures. It is a huge responsibility to place on someone. You must also show that you know what you are doing. If there is any doubt to the state of your mental capacity, a medical competency evaluation can be done by your physician.

Completing the Process

Once you have selected someone to be your power of attorney, you must complete the proper paperwork. You can obtain the forms from your legal representative, a hospital, or online. They must be completed in full, signed by you, and notarized. A copy of your power of attorney should be kept in a safe place where several people have access to it if needed. The person or people you’ve granted power of attorney should also have a copy, and if appropriate your family lawyer should have a copy.

Creative Commons License photo credit: dno1967b

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